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Pregnancy Care Guidelines

Part C: Lifestyle considerations

This section discusses lifestyle factors that contribute to the health and wellbeing of a woman and her baby during pregnancy. Recommendations are based on evidence about the health risks and benefits associated with a range of lifestyle factors.

The summary of advice on lifestyle considerations during pregnancy considered a priority for inclusion in these Guidelines. Advice on immunisation during pregnancy is included in the Australian Immunisation Handbook (ATAGI 2017).

Summary of advice for women about lifestyle considerations during pregnancy

Health behaviours

Nutrition

  • Eating the recommended number of daily serves of the five food groups and drinking plenty of water is important during pregnancy
  • Additional serves of the five food groups may contribute to healthy weight gain in women who are underweight but these should be limited by women who are overweight or obese
  • Small to moderate amounts of caffeine are unlikely to harm the pregnancy

Physical activity

  • Low to moderate-intensity physical activity during pregnancy has a range of benefits and is not associated with negative effects on the pregnancy or baby 

Tobacco smoking

  • Smoking and passive smoking can have negative effects on the pregnancy and the baby

Alcohol

  • Not drinking alcohol is the safest option for women who are pregnant

Substance use

  • Illicit substances and non-medical use of medications (eg opioids) have negative effects on the pregnancy and the baby

Preventive health interventions

Folic acid

  • Folic acid taken preconception and in the first trimester reduces the risk of a baby having neural tube defects and a supplement of 500 mcg a day is recommended

Other vitamins

  • Supplements of vitamins A, C and E are not of benefit during pregnancy and may cause harm

Iron

  • Increasing intake of iron-rich foods reduces the risk of iron deficiency
  • Unnecessary iron supplementation offers no benefit and has side effects at higher doses
  • For women with low dietary intake, intermittent supplementation is as effective as daily supplementation in preventing iron-deficiency anaemia, with fewer side effects
  • For women with identified iron-deficiency anaemia, low-dose supplementation is as effective as high dose, with fewer side effects

Calcium

  • For women with low dietary intake and high risk of pre-eclampsia, increased intake of calcium-rich foods or supplements may be beneficial

Iodine

  • Iodine requirements increase during pregnancy and a supplement of 150 micrograms a day is recommended.

Medicines

Medicines

  • Use of medicines should be limited to circumstances where the benefit outweighs the risk

Herbal medicines

  • Herbal medicines should be avoided during pregnancy

General advice

Oral health 

  • Good oral health is important to a woman’s health and treatment can be safely provided during pregnancy.

Sexual activity

  • Sexual intercourse in pregnancy is not known to be associated with any adverse outcomes.

Travel

  • Correct use of three-point seatbelts during pregnancy is to have the belt ‘above and below the bump, not over it’.
  • Long-distance air travel is associated with an increased risk of venous thrombosis.
  • Pregnant women should discuss considerations such as air travel, vaccinations and travel insurance with their midwife or doctor if they are planning to travel overseas
  • If a pregnant woman cannot defer travel to malaria-endemic areas, she should use an insecticide-treated bed net.
  • Some medications to prevent malaria can be safely used in pregnancy.

References

  • ATAGI (2017 update) Australian Immunisation Handbook. 10th edition. Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation. Canberra: Department of Health.
Last updated: 
20 November 2018